No one can deny our health care system has problems that need to be addressed. There are those in this country who are without insurance, who are underinsured and who go without necessary — and sometimes lifesaving — treatments each day. In a country like the United States, this is frustrating to see and we can no longer continue to accept it.
But the response to this cannot be a trillion dollar government takeover of our health care system. This month, Democrats in the House introduced their health care plan, which includes a government-run health care system that would force two-thirds of Americans out of their current, employer-provided plan. To pay for this, they proposed more than $800 billion in tax increases on small businesses and American families during one of the most severe economic recessions this country has seen in decades.
Dramatically increasing taxes and federal spending will not solve this problem, however, something must be done. So what is the answer?
We must first remember there is no one answer to the problems facing our health care system, but changes need to be made in order to improve our current system. Currently, many different pieces of legislation on health care have been introduced. As I weigh these different plans, there are a few key aspects I am looking for:
• Coverage for all Americans. There are approximately 47 million Americans without health insurance coverage in this country. When they become ill, they go to an emergency room where treatment and tests are dramatically more expensive, driving up the cost of health care. We must address this problem. One option might be to provide funding for private health program for those Americans who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. This would ensure all Americans have access to health insurance while keeping the federal government out of the individual’s health care decisions.
• Lower costs and maintain choice. We need to lower the cost of medical procedures and the cost of health insurance. The best way to do this is to ensure transparency in the system. We need to allow patients to view the costs of procedures as well as the costs of insurance policies side-by-side. This will encourage competition within the market and help to lower prices. Another option is one proposed by Senator Coburn’s legislation the Patient’s Choice Act. It provides a refundable tax credit of $2,300 per individual and $5,700 per family. This is a great way to help Americans cover their health care costs without a complete federal government takeover of the system.
• Access for all Americans. Access to health care is a major issue in rural America. Right now, there are many Oklahomans who live in rural areas and have problems getting to hospitals or doctors. Any health care reform plan must ensure we expand our health care resources to those rural areas that have been ignored by so many for so long.
• Preventative care. Preventative care is an absolutely necessary part of any health care reform legislation. Each year, five chronic — but preventable — diseases cause two-thirds of American deaths. The treatment of these preventable diseases makes up 75 percent of total health care expenditures. By promoting preventative care, this country would be able to dramatically decrease its overall health care costs and promote a healthier life for all Americans.
• Keep medical decisions in the hands of doctors and patients. We must keep government bureaucrats out of the doctor-patient relationship. We already have seen the red tape nightmare that can be created when the federal government steps in. Can you imagine if going to your doctor’s office was like going to the Department of Motor Vehicles?
• Continued leadership in innovation and treatment. Right now, this country has the best doctors, hospitals and scientists in the world. Almost 70 percent of Nobel Prize recipients in medicine have come from the United States and five of the six most important medical discoveries in the past 25 years were done made by American scientists. However, when competition is removed, the market loses its innovative edge. A health care system must encourage competition among health providers and among doctors and scientist so the United States remains a leader in medical innovation.
• No rationed health care. One of the biggest problems facing countries like England and Canada who have nationalized health care systems is that, due to costs, they are forced to ration health care. For that reason, we see Canadians coming to the United States to and paying full price for necessary health care treatments they would have to wait months for in Canada.
Lucas represents Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District.
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